Modern visitors enter through the same monumental gateway, the Bab-i Humayun (Imperial Gate), as the sultans’ visitors did. As you stand beside the fountain look up and admire a stunning piece of calligraphy containing a quotation from the Koran that was inserted into the lunette above the gate; it’s thought to be the handwork of Ali Sofi who also worked on the Murad Pasha Mosque at Aksaray (LINK).

Beneath it a rectangular plaque commemorates the building of the palace by Sultan Mehmed II (“the Conqueror”) in 1478, describing him as “the sultan of two continents, and the emperor of two seas”. Finally, the lintel is decorated with the tugra (monogram) of Sultan Mahmud II who had the gate refashioned in the 19 th century.

Niches on either side of it were used to display the heads of those who had offended the sultan (before they were refaced with marble in the 19 th century, of course). A second storey that appears in old images of the gate was demolished by Sultan Abdulaziz in 1867.

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